Warm, Gusty Conditions Drying out the Northern and Southern Plains

Posted on Thu, 04/08/2021 - 10:59

A cold front traversed the eastern half of the country last week, bringing showers and thunderstorms and leaving record-breaking cold temperatures in its wake. On the other hand, warm, dry weather continued in the West, with many locations recording record daily high temperatures. “The overall effect was a general deterioration of conditions across the Lower 48 as moisture deficits continued to build in the West and in locations in the eastern half of the country that missed out on the heaviest rainfall,” according to today’s National Drought Monitor for the week ending April 6. Improvements over the past week were “minimal,” according to the update.  

Drought expanded and intensified in northern and southern areas of the Plains over the past week, though there was some improvement in the Texas Panhandle and into western Oklahoma. Warm, dry weather paired with gusty wind dried out soils and vegetation. Today’s monitor notes, “In Texas, degradations occurred throughout the state in response to rainfall deficits, increased evaporative demand and vegetation health. Most notable is an expansion of D3 (extreme) and D4 (exceptional) drought in the long-term drought area in the western part of the state. In Oklahoma, this week’s map shows broad expansions of D0 (abnormal dryness) and D1 (moderate drought).”

Farther to the north, Nebraska and the Dakotas recorded record-setting daily highs in the upper 70s to mid-80s last week, with low humidity and gusty winds elevating the risk of fire. Severe and extreme drought expanded in the Dakotas. As of April 4, USDA reports 92% of North Dakota’s topsoil and 68% of South Dakota’s topsoil was rated “short” to “very short,” signaling soil moisture is well under what’s needed for normal crop growth.

Today’s Drought Monitor commentary observes, “In North Dakota, county Extension agents report that producers are starting to de-stock livestock herds by culling cows and grain farmers are very concerned about the lack of moisture. Photos show soil drift due to the dry conditions and high winds.”

There was little week-to-week change in drought coverage for the Midwest over the past week, with the exception of some minor drought expansion in northeast Illinois. Today’s update comments that the “most notable weather in the Midwest last week was the development of subfreezing temperatures,” with locations in central Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois and Kentucky setting daily low records.

Precipitation generally missed the drought areas in northern areas of the Midwest, but cool temperatures also kept conditions from deteriorating in most of the Midwest. Northwest Iowa is the hardest hit; there’s still a patch of extreme drought in that area of the state.

Drought Monitor

Drought Change Map